By Mohammad Omari
RAMALLAH, Saturday, December 14, 2019 (WAFA) - The heavy weight 11-year-old Maya Khalil was carrying was not from burdens of life, but rather from the medals she was carrying over her neck which she had won over the last four years.
Maya was awarded the title of the Palestine swimming championship 3 times in a row, with a record of winning a 50-meter freestyle swimming race in 35:34 seconds, a 50-meter butterfly race in 44:41 seconds, a 50-meter breaststroke competition in 47:30 seconds, and a 100-meter breaststroke 1:47 minute.
She was able to win 14 medals after occupying the forefront of swimming contests that she participated in at the national and clubs level despite the fact that she was competing against older swimmers.
Maya began swimming at the age of five. Her father was the one who started to teach her swimming basics when the family lived in Abu Dhabi.
Before returning to Palestine, she drew attention to her speed in swimming during which she won a number of medals in the private school tournaments and in Abu Dhabi tournaments for middle schools.
Today, Maya is receiving extensive training in swimming for two hours a day, five days a week at a club in Ramallah in order to be qualified to compete locally and internationally by breaking her previous records and she is only 8 seconds away from reaching the Olympic record.
Like all athletes, Maya said that her dream is to represent Palestine in the regional and international championships and not just to raise the Palestinian flag, but also to get on the podium of the champions.
During an interview with WAFA, Maya said that her goal is to participate in the 2024 Olympics which will be held in Paris. At the time she will be 16 years old, which would allow her to participate and represent Palestine in the largest sports forum.
Maya Khalil is currently being trained at the YMCA in Ramallah by Raed Melad who is trying through intensive training courses to improve her previous records and prepare her for competitions abroad. Coach Basel Katamesh from Palfit club, is responsible for Maya’s physical and endurance training.
Maya`s biggest fans are her father, Ziad Khalil, and her mother who accompany her wherever she goes and provide her the support needed in order to participate in national competitions.
“My daughter loves gymnastics, but she chose swimming instead because of the circumstances in Palestine and the lack of the equipment needed for gymnastics,” Maya’s father, Ziad, told WAFA.
“Maya’s biggest problem is in the lack of support and encouragement of these emerging talents at schools, particularly because of the primary role the schools play in developing and building their skills, along with the absence of clubs and swimming pools in Palestine for such category,” he added.
He expressed hope that the young talents in swimming would get the local support of officials and those responsible for such competitions, adding that they should work on nurturing these talents from childhood by letting them participate in training camps locally and abroad so that they will be able to represent Palestine in international competitions in order to achieve positive results, and not just participation.
“If the financial and moral support were provided to Maya, she definitely would be able to develop significantly and achieve the required results,” said Ziad.